Love to See Red
I compliment you on bringing back the original "Red" Connelly, the man with the gift of ironic understatement and sarcasm, in your News Hostage column. I really missed Connelly's "Sports for Heretics" column at the Public News, and it's a delight to see his wit gracing the pages of the alternative press once again. He often took swipes at news figures even in his sports columns, so it's nice that he now has the "column inches" (a term he loves to use when referring to page space) to hold court.

Mr. Connelly, you're a wonderful writer and comedian (yes, comedian)! Keep up the fine work! (When are we gonna see a best-of volume of your stuff?)

Charles Tatum II
via Internet

Media Monitor
Just wanted to let you know how much I like your News Hostage column. Someone needs to monitor the media here because it is uncompetitive and boring. I especially liked your piece on Ken Hoffman a few weeks ago (I used to work for the Post).

Jeff Share
via Internet

Coming Right Back
I loved your column and hope that News Hostage is going to be a regular feature. If so, you will never run out of things to write about! I'm so glad to know I am not the only one who notices the insipid musings that pass for legitimate news stories in this city.

If you plan to do this regularly, you might want to consider doing an all Channel 2 column, as they are the dumbest of the dumb in all categories of news in Houston. Why do they think it is news to terrify us with stories about things we have absolutely no control over?

Keep up the great work!
Brynette Lowe
via Internet

Truth Tester
Congratulations to Shaila Dewan on her well-written expose of the TAAS ["The Fix Is In," February 25; "Adding It All Up," March 4].

The truth about the education of our children is being sacrificed upon the career altars of many politicians and education bureaucrats, locally, statewide and nationally. The extent of that borders on the criminal.

My research of the 50 largest Texas school districts further corroborates Ms. Dewan's article. For example, every one of the 50 largest school districts showed dramatic improvement from 1995 to 1998 in the percentages passing all parts of the TAAS in every one of the following categories of enrollment: economically disadvantaged, Hispanics and African-Americans. The average improvement for each of the three categories was about 20 percentage points from 1995 to 1998.

If anyone believes that this miraculous improvement could happen in each of the three categories in every one of the 50 largest school districts, without exception, there is some prime Florida swampland I would like to sell to them!

The politicians and "educrats" can preen and pound on the podiums all they like at the state and national levels. The truth is, however, things will not get better until each of us obtains the real facts about his own school district and gets involved at the local level.

Bob Lemer

Fail Safe
This is the biggest drop-bomb to blow up: the way this state "rates" student testing. I knew there was a problem with this system when I saw some of my classmates cheat in a group, with a supposed supervisor standing two feet away.

Now it is an eye-opener to find out why my freshman year in college bit my ass. The test results they give you do not show how you did, but only how your group did as a whole. Shaila Dewan should find out how many raises and promotions have gone out since I graduated from high school in 1994, because this is when they really wanted us to "get smart" with the TAAS. Great job with this paper!

Ima Inyang
via Internet

Anomalous Anomalies
I read Ms. Dewan's article regarding TAAS "anomalies" -- this is the term the Fort Bend school district's staff attorney is applying to the allegations of cheating on this test -- with great interest and concern. I find it interesting that TEA would allow the school districts in question to investigate themselves! I liken that to turning the fox loose in the henhouse. Just as HISD's investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing, what do you expect the other districts' conclusions will be?

Another fine example of why Texas was ranked among the lowest in the country in teacher pay and education for our buck, but among the top in what we pay administrators and football programs!

At least Fort Bend has created another word for the children to use when caught cheating on a test: "Oh, no, Mr. Jones, I didn't cheat. It is just an 'anomaly' that I changed so many answers."

Name withheld by request
via Internet

Book 'Em!
In order to detect cheating on the TAAS test, use a variant of a test used in medieval England. Send investigators into classrooms with a book written at the appropriate grade level. Have each student read a couple of paragraphs from the book.

Mervin Miller

Erectable Officials
Enjoyed your article [Insider, by Tim Fleck, March 4]. As a Robert Eckels supporter with a "front row" seat to county government for the past 19 years, I am not surprised that all the elected officials and insiders interviewed support only the "status quo."

If citizens realized how much power a county commissioner wields in his precinct and how the spending of tax money is influenced by campaign contributions, golf trips, hunting trips, private dinners, side business deals and inside information, they would demand more than a change; they would demand indictments. How can people seriously debate against what he wants, unless their view is extremely biased?

I was at the state of the county speech. All Judge Eckels stated were facts; has anyone said he was up there lying? Radack has had a hard-on for Eckels since he took office. He butted heads with Eckels's father because Bob supported Tracy Maxon when Radack ran against him.

The ones objecting to his ideas can complain all they want, but Eckels is right. If you doubt me, go interview the "man on the street."

Hill Adams
via Internet

Hurricane Rehab
As someone who has seen three townhouse complexes go up within two blocks of his Montrose apartment, I can assure Robert F. Alexander [Letters, "Bunker Down," March 4] that the new ticky-tacky boxes I saw constructed look exactly alike, down to the pressed-wood two-by-four construction, fake brick siding and chimneys and beige fucking paint job.

They're expensively hideous crap guaranteed to blow down in the next hurricane. A $250,000 pile of toothpicks is a heavy price to pay for the right to walk to Starbucks.

R.T. Castleberry

Correcting the Record
Erroneous information was provided to the Houston Press by Houston Independent School District last week and was published in a story entitled "HISD fires, reprimands and probes."

In a correction memo, HISD spokesman Terry Abbott says that the name of Kashmere Gardens Elementary School teacher Frankie Garner was not listed on an erasure analysis of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills for five years, as previously reported. (An erasure analysis shows how many times answers on a test are changed.) This information, Abbott says, "does not change HISD's decision to terminate the teacher based on the investigation showing that answers on the TAAS test were changed.


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